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Is Rapid Prototyping the Future of Manufacturing?

Kerry Beeby - Director

le manufacturing has been in a constant evolution for some time now, it's safe to say that it hasn't changed a whole lot. Although we've managed to advance into greener technologies and develop new ways to perform a process, these processes are mostly the same as they were years ago.

What Is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a great way to fabricate a part or model as fast as possible through the use of 3D computer-aided design (CAD). This is usually done with an additive manufacturing process like 3D printing or sometimes injection moulding.

In doing it this way, the manufacturer is able to design a part by using CAD software like Creo or Solidworks. Once this has been given the green light, the manufacturing company can then create a prototype of the part which will allow for a 'hands-on' with the part before mass production. This is often an important part of the tooling and moulding process, because the prototype can be tested to make sure it is the right shape, size and even weight.

READ: A Greener Approach to Injection Moulding


How Does Rapid Prototyping Work?

Rapid prototyping works by utilising the best techniques possible to achieve a quick turnaround. This means that as a manufacturing company, we're able to take a part or mould from the concept stage to the mass production stage faster than ever.

The processes used for rapid prototyping are often additive manufacturing techniques that are much more efficient than others. For example, the use of 3D printing and injection moulding is ideal because they are fast and effective.

Additive manufacturing refers to a process that adds material rather than taking it away. 3D printing is a prime example because the printing nozzle adds a layer to the model as it passes over it.

READ: Injection Moulding - Present and Future

Why Should We Use Rapid Prototyping?

There are a number of reasons that should push you to use rapid prototyping. It makes sense to develop the process further too, as this would make sure that we're being as efficient as possible.

Speed:

Due to the fact that rapid prototyping techniques offer a speedy way to produce the part or model, it means that we can shave time off of the manufacturing process to ensure a more efficient service. This is ideal for both manufacturers and consumers because if the cost of manufacturing is cut, so will the price of the finished product. When we can cut cost without having an effect on the quality of the product, it is always ideal for the manufacturer, client and the end-point consumers.

Accuracy:

The accuracy of a rapidly-produced prototype is astonishing, as we're able to create exactly the same part as anyone else, with any other process. Rapid prototyping just means that we can do it faster than ever. What's more, due to the nature of additive manufacturing, we're able to create the most intricate of parts with finite details too.

Durability:

The parts that a rapid prototype can create don't always need to be durable - often, they just need to be able to fit into a space perfectly, or represent the part within a custom-built machine. However, by using the right materials, this style of prototyping is able to produce durable parts that are built to last as long as you need them to.

Less Waste:

Additive manufacturing is one of the best ways to promote less wastage while creating and prototyping. Due to the nature of the additive process, you'll only be using as much material as you need. This means that there will be less - if not no - wasted materials that can't be used. Most of the time, we can recycle plastics that we use, but there would be little to no need to recycle through the use of this process.

READ: 3D Printing Helps to Separate Conjoined Twins


The Future of Rapid Prototyping

When it comes to predicting the future, we definitely don't claim to be a clairvoyant. But it would seem like the logical choice to reinvest in rapid prototyping in order to make it faster, easier and more efficient for everyone.

By developing the process further, it may mean that we can produce parts and products faster than ever and cut the manufacturing time in half! It would have an ideal effect on the manufacturing industry as a whole, because the turnaround on products would be beneficial to its clients. They'd be happy that we're able to create their products quickly so that they can put them to use.

Additive manufacturing is most definitely the way forward too. Additive manufacturing will allow us to cut waste, which is one of the most important parts of manufacturing. The less waste that we produce, the less effect that we'll have upon the environment. Keeping a sustainable process is the goal that everyone should be working towards and this is an ideal way to achieve that goal!


Kerry Beeby - Pro-Moulds UK

Kerry is the director at Pro-Moulds UK, an injection moulding and rapid prototyping company in the East Midlands. Ideally located, they serve the entire UK market and help companies to create bespoke tooling.

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